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Chapter Ten

 Immediately upon leaving the great hall, the Duke headed towards the library.  The city and citadel of Gudmund had been established almost as long ago as the capital, and the founders had insisted on creating an archive of knowledge.  He had recognized the metal canister as a scroll tube as soon as he had seen it.  It was sturdier than most and had been subjected to the elements, but its contents might still be of use.

He burst into the large, well lit library.  “My lord,” the elderly lore master began, “My apprentice and I have been researching the vergrinn as you requested.  The records of their past incursions are somewhat scattered, but we have found the Official Chronicles of the duchy that pertain to several of the most recent incursions.”

“Excellent.  Before you do anything else about that, I have something for you to examine.” He presented the scroll tube to one of the men, keeping the sword Amundr had discovered tucked under his other arm.

“Your lordship, this is astounding.”  The scroll tube was made of silver, long blackened with age.  Its cap was also silver and it had been sealed with molten lead.  Imprinted in the middle of the lead were two runes – the rune of the duchy of Gudmund and an unknown rune that resembled the letter U.  “Where did this come from?”

“If the story I was told is correct, it was inside a rather old tree near the banks of the Svanr River.  I would like to be able to know what it says as soon as possible.”

“Certainly, sir.”  The two men scurried about the library, gathering various tools.  They brought the scroll tube to a table and laid it down.  The lore master’s apprentice held the tube steady while the master himself retrieved a small hammer and chisel from the pile of tools they had assembled.  He delicately chipped away at the lead seal, artfully avoiding the runes in the metal so that they could be preserved for study.

After several minutes, the last of the lead had fallen away from the tube.  The lore master tugged and twisted on the tube’s cap, worrying it loose like a child’s tooth.  The cap finally came free, and the lore master pulled a vellum scroll from inside the tube.  He laid it out on the table and began to examine it.

“It’s written in a slightly older dialect,” he began.  “I imagine this scroll was written several hundred years ago.”  Pausing as he looked over the scroll, he finally began reading.

We have defeated the vergrinn yet again, but at a great cost.  I am weary to the bone and do not know if I will recover from my wounds.  My sons are all dead save the youngest, and he lies dying in the citadel at Gudmund in the care of Ulfbane.  I fear the Wolf Spears may no longer protect the land.  I am entrusting the sword of the Spears to this place.  The place has known power for good and will keep the sword until one arises who may draw and wield it.

Aleifr

The three men were silent.  Finally, the apprentice turned to the Duke and spoke.  “Is that the sword as mentioned in this scroll?”  He gestured at the sword the Duke had under his arm.  The Duke shrugged.  He held the sword out for the lore master and his apprentice to see.  “May we examine it?”  The Duke handed it over.  The lore master laid it on the table and they wiped it down with cloths.  Cleaned and viewed in the light, intricate scrollwork was plainly visible on the scabbard as well as the crosspiece of the blade itself.  At the center of both was the same unknown rune from the scroll case.  “May we draw it and examine the blade?”

The Duke again nodded.  The lore master tried to pull the blade free of its scabbard, but it wouldn’t budge.  The apprentice tried as well, to no avail.  The Duke himself attempted to withdraw the blade from its scabbard and found that he could not.  “I wonder…” he murmured.

“Your Lordship, we mentioned that we had found information on the vergrinn in the archives.”

“Yes, and?”

“Well, you ought to read some of it now.”  The lore master looked to his apprentice, who nodded vigorously.  “It deals with a legendary group of men known as the ‘Wolf Spears’…”

***

Amundr’s heart leapt as he looked down at the page.  This was something his father had written specifically for him!  He read the first sheet.

Amundr,

I had thought we would have more time.  The vergrinn are coming and we are about to depart for Gudmund.  You know nothing of our heritage or lineage, and that can’t be corrected yet.  I have a sense of great foreboding, and I am writing this in case I do not make it to Gudmund.

We are the Wolf Spears.  Our ancestors were the first to stand against the vergrinn in time out of mind.  We have acquired some small knowledge about them, but much was lost hundreds of years ago when our line almost died out during the eighth vergrinn war.  We have no special strength at arms, but through some power we are able to understand the foul speech of the vergrinn.  Our ancestors swore an oath to stand against the vergrinn when all others fled, and we have quietly watched and waited for every incursion they have made.  They are calling for us to mount up.  There is no more time to write any more now.  I’ll make sure we can talk on our trip.

Father

Saegrimr was looking at him guiltily.  He clearly felt that he had intruded in something deeply personal between Amundr and his father.  “I’ll just step over here,” he said.  “You can finish reading without me.”  Saegrimr went and gathered the rest of his gear from the pile on the table and walked out the door.  Amundr simply nodded and turned to the next page.

Amundr,

Today you fought like a man.  Your friend Saegrimr did well today, but none matched you.  When I saw you tear off into the woods to help those children my heart swelled with pride.  How you have helped the powerless!  How you have saved the arm that is feeble!  You will be a great Spear, I only wish that you didn’t have to live through one of the vergrinn wars.  If you always remember that it is our duty to protect those that are weaker, you won’t go wrong.  The righteous will hold to their ways, and those with clean hands will grow stronger.

Father

Amundr’s hands were trembling slightly as he picked up the third and final sheet of parchment. 

Amundr,

We spoke briefly last night of the vergrinn.  I didn’t want to frighten the children, but I also didn’t want to frighten you.  They are foul creatures.  They are cursed.  As you stand against them, always remember:

“Those who hate me without reason outnumber the hairs of my head; many are my enemies without cause, those who seek to destroy me.”

They will ignore cattle and game and horses to eat human flesh, and they even eat their own dead.  They are ferocious fighters, but they are slow-witted and not swift of foot.  My father told me that while he was fighting the last vergrinn war, he heard that in the archives at Gudmund there was information about the vergrinn and the Wolf Spears that might be helpful.  I intended to take you there when you were older, but hopefully we will be there in a few days.  I hope you never have to read these notes, but I fear that you will.

Father

Amundr folded the letters back up and put them in his pocket.  He started inventorying arrows and checking his bow.  He heard the door to the courtyard open again and thought Saegrimr must have come back in to check on him.  “I’m almost done here.  I’ll be along in a minute.”

“That will be fine.”  It wasn’t Saegrimr’s voice.  Amundr looked up and saw the Duke standing in the doorway looking at him.  “We need to talk.”

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